Something unspeakable has lain beneath an ancient Norfolk church for centuries. Its discovery now forces an unconventional female priest to take on an ancient religious order and brave Hell itself – or are they one and the same adversary? What begins as a supernatural story evolves into a mystery that has stretched over centuries, and a hidden prophesy that completely re-shapes the Church of Rome.
We had an opportunity to score an exclusive interview with author Serena Cairns about her new book, FATHER OF LIES. It’s a winner: Goodreads and Amazon have plenty of 5 star reviews about this thrilling novel. Let’s see what she has to say:
How did ‘Father of Lies’ come about?
It began as just something to read out at the writers’ group I was attending. As the weeks went by and the feedback was so encouraging, I needed to plan the storyline properly. Looking back at the original synopsis, I realise I had no clue as to the ultimate outcome of the book, nor the amazing journey it would take me on to get there. It begins rather like an old Hammer movie, but evolves into a Dan Brown-style conspiracy, only with far less running about. I had no intention of writing for that genre, but the story led me in that direction. I merely put it on paper. I have no desire to write great literature, but exciting page-turners, and grammar and sentence structure are incredibly important to me.
Would you term your book a horror story?
Definitely not! There are elements to it that might be horrific, but I have deliberately understated some scenes. It was not my intention to go into gory description. Usually, such details are better left to the reader’s imagination.
Who or what would you consider has influenced your work?
Having been a lifelong lover of films, hours spent at the cinema in my youth gave me a foundation in ‘scene-turners’, and I see my writing in cinematic terms. I shift scenes frequently to keep the action going, drawing upon facts to keep the fiction credible. There is probably a long ladder of influences leading to each author’s style, no matter how original they believe themselves to be.
Your book involves the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Were you ever worried it might offend anyone?
My original draft was much more controversial. In fact, I rang Dan Brown’s UK agent to ask if they’d had any trouble with the Vatican. After all, I didn’t want the Opus Dei knocking on my door. Although the man I spoke to said he couldn’t discuss Dan Brown or his books, when I told him about ‘Father of Lies’, he just said, ‘Don’t go there – not unless you have a lot of money behind you’. I went into meltdown. The book was finished and, as far as I was concerned, ready for publication. However, as is often the case with seeming disasters, it turned out to be beneficial. I merely made some changes, all of which added to and improved the original, and I am far happier with the finished story. I certainly have no wish to offend anyone, and must stress that ‘Father of Lies’ is a work of fiction. Funnily enough, I’ve had positive feedback from members of the Church of England, even clergy.
The book is very character driven. Where or how did you come up with those characters?
I never seem to have a problem introducing new characters. In fact, I have to be quite strict with myself not to over-populate a story. I probably had most difficulty with the Rev. Laura Coatman, as I have little experience of priests, female or otherwise. It was difficult for me to empathise with her until the final draft, where a few small changes made all the difference. I have never understood why I find it much easier to write from a male perspective. The most interesting character, from my point of view, is Monsignor Benvenuti. In film terms, he was introduced as an ‘extra’ to fulfil his given task and fade into the background. He was having none of it, and became a major player. There was one instance where I typed his words, and then sat back, shocked, saying out loud, ‘Well, I didn’t expect that’. I love it when characters seem to take on a life of their own. It is the interaction between my characters that made ‘Father of Lies’ a joy to write, and seems to strike a chord with its readers.
Did ‘Father of Lies’ require a lot of research on the Vatican and the supernatural?
Very little on the supernatural, as it has always been a fascination of mine, although I did look up a few serpent references. I came up with far more than I could use, and had to keep reminding myself I was writing fiction, not a reference book. I read up on the Vatican and the history of the popes, but again, the amount of material I could use far outweighed what I should. I knew the final chapters had to be set in Rome, but was horrified when, halfway through the book, two of my characters decided to go to the Eternal City. ‘Come back’, I called, but they didn’t listen, so I was forced to research Rome. A writer needs just enough facts to flesh out and make a story credible, without swamping the reader with information that has no direct bearing on the story. I didn’t want to sound like a guide book, but needed to give a flavour of the city. A fine line. I have since found a book that gives a lot of information on the everyday life of a pope, but hopefully I can draw upon it to colour the sequels.
So there is going to be a sequel?
Most definitely. ‘Father of Lies’ stands alone, but there has been feedback that suggests people want more, and my characters have more to tell. I am currently writing ‘Set in Time’, which takes place in Rome and Egypt, and hope to complete the trilogy with ‘Leviathan’.
Do you think the Pope would enjoy ‘Father of Lies’?
Maybe. I’d like to think he might chuckle.
You can check out the author’s webpage here.
If you are ready to grab your own copy of FATHER OF LIES you can get it [easyazon_link identifier=”B00YYN10EE” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].